The Deck described itself as an independent ad network focused on “reaching web, design & creative professionals” but it was more than that. The Deck was built on truly admirable principles, a worldview about how the Internet might work if it could resist its worst temptations. Ads were small, non-invasive and restricted to high-quality advertisers providing products relevant to the network’s chosen niche, and all of the member sites joined without a contract, purely on a handshake—and no one got sued. It was really successful for a while and but now its founder Jim Coudal is shuttering the network, citing the nearly wholesale change in the online market for independent content:
In 2014, display advertisers started concentrating on large, walled, social networks. The indie ‘blogosphere’ was disappearing. Mobile impressions, which produce significantly fewer clicks and engagements, began to really dominate the market. Invasive user tracking (which we refused to do) and all that came with that became pervasive, and once again The Deck was back to being a pretty good business. By 2015, it was an OK business and, by the second half of 2016, the network was beginning to struggle again.
I was lucky enough that Subtraction.com was a member for a while and it was a point of pride to be part of such an esteemed group of publishers. Just take a look at the list of the sites that were a part of the network and you’ll see some of the best design thinkers from the first decade or so of this century. It’s sad to see The Deck go, but all things must pass. My thanks to Jim for making something really wonderful. Read his parting comments at decknetwork.net.